Miami Herald Protests New ‘Culture Of Censorship’ At Guantanamo

April 9, 2014 by  
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WASHINGTON — The Miami Herald’s top editor called on the Department of Defense to withdraw new media restrictions at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, and blasted the 13-year-old facility’s growing “culture of censorship,” according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post.

In an April 4 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, executive editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez wrote that four Miami Herald journalists visiting Guantanamo Bay last month were forbidden “from photographing the faces of anyone but the detention center commander, his spokesman and the contractor in charge of catering.”

Gonzalez wrote that two sergeants and a private “systematically deleted any imagery” showing the face of anyone else, even if the identity of the person photographed had been previously disclosed and publicized. The Herald journalists were ordered to photograph troops from the neck down and were prevented from reporting names of any other members of the 2,100-member staff, according to the letter. Previously, reporters were allowed to photograph and name members of the military with their permission.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said Wednesday that Hagel was traveling in Asia. He said The Miami Herald, not HuffPost, sent the letter and would therefore receive any response first.

“The Secretary responds to correspondence to him in reasoned, due course, but never via the press,” Breasseale wrote in an email to HuffPost. “It’s worth noting that — without addressing the letter you ‘obtained’ directly — the Department takes very seriously the issue of access by the press at Guantanamo where it is lawful, reasonable, and responsible to do so and has an established history of doing just that.”

The rules for reporters covering Guantanamo constantly change, but the shifts usually have to do with staff turnover rather than changes in written policy. On one trip, reporters may be allowed to take photos of the orange barriers surrounding the military courtroom. On another trip, members of the military might delete every photo that includes any portion of an orange barrier. It took a long time for officials to allow reporters to bring spiral-bound notebooks into the courtroom observation room, even though reporters are separated from detainees by several layers of soundproof glass.

In September, military personnel stopped releasing daily counts of Guantanamo detainees they considered hunger strikers. In December, the military refused to respond to inquires about the number of hunger strikers.

Meanwhile, U.S. military media outlets appear to operate under fewer restrictions.

Gonzalez suggested a double standard, noting that a military-run outlet published the names and faces of four soldiers in an April 4 article.

“If we at the Miami Herald do the same thing, under Southcom’s new gag order on troops talking to media and new ground rules governing civilian media access, the people who censored my journalists at Guantánamo have the authority to expel them from the base and permanently ban them from reporting there,” Gonzalez wrote. “In short, under your rules, the story your media wing published would have been defined as an operational security violation had we published the same thing.”

In another example, Gonzalez wrote that troops seized video in December from a French journalist “who recorded a scene of Santa Claus at the Guantanamo commissary, with permission of an escort.” After deleting the image, she wrote, troops “later staged a similar photo and published it on the cover of the detention center’s in-house newsletter, The Wire.”

Gonzalez wrote that “a culture of censorship has set in at Guantanamo of a scale we have not experienced in the past 13 years of reporting from there.”

“Your troops are wielding editorial instruments on independent journalists with an ever-expanding interpretation of their power to influence the story of Guantanamo in the free press,” the editor wrote. “And in doing so, the organization whose motto is ‘Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent’ detention is implementing a dishonest double standard that snuffs out the reporting of basic information the public was once allowed to know.”

The tougher media restrictions come at a time when there would seem to be an interest on the part of the Obama administration in drawing attention to the massive expense of housing detainees — many cleared for transfer to other countries. President Barack Obama renewed his effort to get Congress to lift restrictions on closing Guantanamo’s detention facilities in his State of the Union address in January.

Miami Herald Letter

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Rand Paul May Have Been Right That Congress Was ‘Complicit’ In Torture

April 8, 2014 by  
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WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) applauded Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) last month after she spoke out against the CIA for allegedly spying on congressional staffers investigating the agency’s torture program. But Feinstein appeared to confirm Paul’s past suspicions that leaders of congressional intelligence committees were “complicit” in allowing torture during President George W. Bush’s (R) administration.

“The Republicans and the Democrats at high levels supported and at least knew that Bush had given these orders to allow torture to occur,” Paul said in an interview with Antiwar.com in May 2009, months before he launched his bid for Senate. “My guess is that the leaders of all the intelligence committees, as well as the congressional leaders on both sides, knew very well of all the things that were going on.”

Paul added that “all the leaders, both the Republicans and Democrats, are complicit in just about everything that happened.”

Feinstein, who has led the Senate Intelligence Committee since 2009, alleged on the Senate floor last month that the CIA had interfered with her staffers’ investigation of the agency’s use of torture on terror suspects. She argued the committee’s report should be declassified “to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”

In describing how the report came about, Feinstein said, “The CIA’s detention and interrogation program began operations in 2002, though it was not until September 2006, that members of the Intelligence Committee, other than the chairman and vice chairman, were briefed.”

Senators apparently have been aware of the CIA’s use of torture for years — as Paul previously suggested. But they may not have known the extent of the torture program or the truth about its efficacy.

Feinstein’s report is said to describe how the CIA misled Congress and the public about its use of torture, hiding abuses and exaggerating the usefulness of torture techniques in preventing attacks on Americans, The Washington Post reported.

Paul said last month he believes senators fear an “intelligence community drunk with power” and said he had voiced his appreciation to Feinstein for standing up to the CIA, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Paul told a crowd of students at University of California, Berkeley, that he hoped Feinstein would “not let the CIA push her around.”

Last week, Feinstein’s committee voted to declassify parts of the committee’s report. The CIA has begun a declassification review of the Senate report’s executive summary.

In the May 2009 interview, Paul said he thought it would be better for the country to move forward than attempt to put Bush or former Vice President Dick Cheney on trial in court for authorizing the CIA to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” on terror suspects.

“I’m not sure I’m in favor of trying George Bush in some kind of trial for torture,” Paul said then. “I don’t know that that does good for the country — I think it ended up being more of a political question than it ended up being whether or not you can try some political leader.”

Paul continued: “I think probably more important than the debate over prosecuting George Bush or Dick Cheney is the question of, ‘should we torture?’ And we need to make sure in the future that doesn’t happen again.”.

Listen to Paul’s interview with Antiwar.com (part 1, part 2 and part 3).
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George W. Bush And Bill Clinton Sit Side-By-Side At The NCAA Championship Game

April 8, 2014 by  
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Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton sat side-by-side at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Monday as they watched the NCAA championship game with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Bush and Clinton watched the Connecticut Huskies and the Kentucky Wildcats compete to win college basketball’s national title. Former First Lady Laura Bush was also in attendance, sitting to her husband’s left.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was sitting in front of Bush and Clinton, and made it into a shot of the former presidents on the stadium’s jumbotron.

clinton

Bipartisan sportsmanship…42 and 43 enjoying the #NCAAChampionship together. #Bush #Clinton

— Abby Huntsman (@HuntsmanAbby) April 8, 2014

CORRECTION: The former first lady in attendance was originally misidentified as Barbara Bush.
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Times’ Clifford Levy: "We are Reimagining the News Experience for the Phone" with New App

April 7, 2014 by  
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Clifford Levy, a two-time Pulitzer Award winning New York Times reporter turned editor, says that this week’s  launch of NYT Now app represents the “reimagining of news” on a mobile phone.

Unlike the paper’s longstanding App, an elegant firehose of over over 200 daily news stories, the new one  is organized with far fewer articles, around the clock, by over a dozen dedicated editors.   The editors  create easily consumed bullets and story summaries of Times articles.  Editors also surface up relevant content from other news sources. Monthly subscription is $8.00.

Levy is the lead editor of the NYT Now app team.  We spoke with him earlier this week at a media reception for the new App at the Times offices.

You can find this post on Beet.TV.

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‘SNL’ French Dance With Anna Kendrick Features Some Cups, Naturally

April 6, 2014 by  
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If there was one sketch on Anna Kendrick’s episode of “Saturday Night Live” that was worth nerding-out on, it was the “French Dance.”

The recurring sketch is always an exercise in ridiculous exuberance and French stereotypes, but this one also featured a nod to Kendrick’s “Cup Song” performance from “Pitch Perfect,” as well as an appearance by Jay Pharoah as Chris Tucker’s over-the-top character from “The Fifth Element.”
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When Authentic Leadership Is Too Revealing: Brendan Eich’s Lessons

April 5, 2014 by  
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The Mozilla controversy train has finally stopped. After a tortured week of equivocal statements on welcoming all opinions, simultaneously affirming support for LGBT people while propping up a CEO who had given personal funds to beat marriage equality, Brendan Eich has resigned as CEO of Mozilla.

I and the organization I represent, the Human Rights Campaign, did not weigh in publicly during this week. Mozilla employees reached out to us following the start of the controversy to begin engagement on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, the national LGBT corporate ranking survey we administer every year.

Seizing a clear silver lining — a willingness to take the CEI — we commend their team for recognizing this goal as being worthwhile.

I think similarly situated businesses can learn a few things.

First off, Mozilla’s strongest statements clarifying its corporate views and some LGBT-inclusive policies came in reaction to the Eich controversy. Mozilla had not established a high level of commitment to making their LGBT inclusion public knowledge as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and hundreds of others have done for years through active participation in the Corporate Equality Index.

True or not, the company appeared to be defensive and without a solid foundation of equality already well-established. The company-issued statements glossed over their CEO’s public donation and commitment to restricting the marriage rights of a major segment of his own workforce and greater consumers Mozilla serves.

On March 29, the company issued a blog post supporting LGBT equality characterizing this as an issue of differing opinions all welcome under the same roof and noting,”[o]ne voice will not limit opportunity for anyone.”

True, if all voices are relatively equal, but this is the CEO.

Furthermore, why have such a prominent leader if his or her voice even suggests a limiting of opportunity?

In an age of corporate beliefs in “authentic leadership,” the fact that Mr. Eich took time out of his day and money out of his checkbook to defeat marriage equality in California most certainly is an insight into his authentic self. In other words, this is not an opinion that surfaced through nuanced and long conversations. It was decisive action aimed at restricting the rights of a minority group.

Nationally the question of basic rights for LGBT people is not a “to-may-to/to-mah-to” breezy difference of opinions.

Amongst the general public, marriage equality is less and less an abstract idea but instead has the very human faces of LGBT family members, friends and colleagues. To label it a simple matter of differing views is just too minimizing.

Without the prodding of LGBT interest groups, Mr. Eich’s Board peers resigned and others expressed their lack of confidence in his ability to lead.

Marriage equality and LGBT equality under the law have the support of the majority of Mozilla’s tech peers, along with hundreds of major businesses that have publicly weighed in at the state level, before the Supreme Court last year and via public coalitions to support legislation. The issue is one of smart business to many prominent corporate leaders, in addition to being the right thing to do.

The dotted lines just couldn’t connect — at once the company reactively affirmed some broad principles of equality, minimized the role of the CEO and failed to specifically and concretely convince its stakeholders of the rationale for tolerating Eich’s commitment to anti-equality measures.

In short, market forces — not just a vocal pro-equality group — took over.

Clearly, the company made a business decision that the reality of its CEO’s anti-LGBT actions was inconsistent with its continued financial well-being. Consumers have a lot of choices these days and why shouldn’t a CEO’s giving influence consumers’ perceptions of a company?

We are glad the story ends with a significant chance for change. The Human Rights Campaign welcomes the opportunity to turn a corner and work with Mozilla on the tenets of equality just as we have for hundreds of other major businesses.
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Harry Reid Hit As ‘Brain Dead,’ ‘Off His Meds’ By Conservatives After Koch Criticisms

April 4, 2014 by  
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WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has sure touched a nerve.

In recent weeks, the soft-spoken former boxer has been aggressively criticizing Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who have thrown millions into conservative and Republican causes. He’s gone so far as to call the Koch brothers’ actions “un-American” and accuse the GOP of being “addicted to Koch.”

Conservatives have been hitting back and standing up for their benefactors. Charles Koch himself wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week saying that his involvement in the political process was simply standing up for “the principles of a free society.” Although he never specifically named Reid, Koch went after his critics, writing, “Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination.”

National Republican Senatorial Campaign Chair Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) then praised the Koch brothers in the Senate on Thursday and read Charles’ op-ed into the congressional record.

Reid has also come under fire from conservatives for going to the Senate floor and calling many of the Obamacare horror stories contained in ads funded by the Koch brothers’ network “untrue.”

But the criticism of Reid has become increasingly personal — not just on the Koch issue — with critics questioning his mental capacity. Some examples:

  • Sharron Angle, former GOP Senate candidate who lost to Reid in 2010: “There’s something going on with Harry Reid’s mental state and we need to really be concerned about it. … He can’t remember … and that’s the onset of something more serious, and as you say, there’s something mentally going on here, when you can’t remember.” [Conservative Commandos, 4/3/14]
  • Bo Dietl, Fox News contributor: “Look at that moron there. That guy from Nevada. Uhhhlll. What’s his name there. … Harry Reid is brain dead. He’s trying to talk. He isn’t well. You know what? It’s time. It’s time to put the dog bell … and put a ticket on him and put him onto the dog track and let him walk around in circles. He’s got to be wearing Depends the way he talks because he doesn’t remember when he went to the bathroom last.” [Fox Business Network, 3/12/14]
  • Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor: “Poor Harry Reid. Either he is off his meds and he clearly needs some assistance immediately — he needs to be rushed to an emergency room — or the man is just brazenly unable to tell the truth.” [Fox News, 3/29/14]
  • Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.): “I didn’t think Mormons used drugs. … I think the longer you stay in political office, the more detached you become from reality.” [Mike Gallagher Radio Show, 3/28/14]
  • Steve Doocy, Fox News host: “It does look like Harry Reid is a very powerful guy who is either — I read one blog that said he’s either having a nervous breakdown or he’s simply somebody who lies about lies.” [Fox News, 3/28/14]

Watch a compilation of the criticisms of Reid in the video above.

Reid, however, seems to have few regrets about getting into a battle with the Koch brothers and their allies. On Thursday, he said, “Most people here are familiar with the Koch brothers. I’ve helped make them a little more infamous or famous, and I’m glad I’ve done that. These two men are a pair of shadowy billionaires spending millions of dollars to rig our political system. And who does it help? Them.”

In the 2012 elections, the political network backed by the Kochs raised at least $407 million, according to The Washington Post.
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Why ‘Mentally-Ill Soldier’ Reporting On Fort Hood Shooting Was Sloppy Journalism

April 3, 2014 by  
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Why do people with mental health issues stay closeted, quiet, and in so many cases untreated? Well, for an answer, all you had to do was watch news coverage of the shooting Wednesday afternoon at Fort Hood, Texas.

As the chaotic not again, not here storyline began to recede into the background, and the could it be terror/second shooter reports (as many who remained cautiously restrained in the early going had predicted) were discounted, a familiar line of questioning and theorizing began to rise almost inevitably, weaving ever-so-quietly-yet-insistently into the on-air chatter:

The shooter, a soldier, was deranged.

When Lt. Gen. Mark Milley appeared before the cameras late Wednesday night, he shared a variety of facts about the suspect in the case: He was a soldier, he’d served four months in Iraq in 2011, and he was married with family in the Killeen, Texas area. Gen. Milley also revealed the shooter had been under evaluation at Fort Hood for possible PTSD, having complained of a traumatic brain injury. He also had received treatment for anxiety and depression — and was on medication (which has been reported today to be Ambien, a prescription sleeping medication).

Fair enough.

Had Gen. Milley added one more fact — say, that the suspect attended an off-post mosque — I assure you the conversation would have ramped up to ferocious speed along the lines of nexus to terrorism. That, of course, did not happen.

Here’s what did happen, though, resulting in a flurry of anger among advocates for the mentally ill, joined by many working to support veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lacking that small fact that could have provided a route into MH370-class conjecture on fundamentalism, terrorism and jihad, journalists jumped on the next most tempting morsel in the highly-limited fact pool: PTSD and mental health.

As early as 8:27 p.m., The New York Daily News was off and running, tweeting, “UPDATE: Mentally ill soldier kills 3, self, wounds 16 at Fort Hood.”

Factual? Perhaps. Fair? Not in the least.

Consider what that tweet might have looked like had the suspect been identified, as in the case of the previous Fort Hood shooter, as Muslim. Would the Daily News have tweeted — merely four hours after the shooting — “UPDATE: Muslim soldier kills 3?”

Again, factual, but clearly, that headline would have sent a subtle but unmistakeable message: Muslim. Terrorist. Now, as it turned out in the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, as the Daily News itself noted just this week, “The psychiatrist became a radicalized Muslim while he was serving in the military, unleashing his fury during a 2009 shooting rampage that left 13 dead and 32 injured.”

But that’s absolutely not what the early coverage of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting went. Reporters and editors, wary of accusations of hostility or insensitivity, included the key fact of the accused’s name, but never ran with it toward an explosive suggestion that hey, he’s Muslim, right, so could this shooting be terrorism?

NBC News, back in November of 2009, waited until the tenth paragraph of a story on the shooting to note, “The Associated Press, quoting federal law enforcement officials, said Hasan had come to their attention at least six months ago because of Internet postings that discussed suicide bombings and other threats. The officials said they were still trying to confirm that he was the author.”

The facts, important as we would later learn, are in the story. But they don’t sit in the lede. NBC included other possibly-significant facts, like reports the shooter had been upset over a workplace issue, which could also have proven to be the cause of the shooting spree. Jihad had no business — then — in the lede or the headline, which did not read, “Soldier Who Spoke of Suicide Bombings, Threats, Kills 12.” It was, “Gunman kills 12, wounds 31 at Fort Hood.”

If only the Daily News had been so careful.

The words we choose as journalists matter. So does the emphasis we use, and the significance we assign to facts. Simply knowing that an Army general or any other official shared a “fact” does not make it, in itself, important. If it were, then a headline like, “Chevy driving soldier kills 3″ would make sense. Instead, it’s ridiculous. Driving a Chevy could be relevant — even turn out to be the most important fact, explaining what led to a horrific attack. But in the first few hours, when more often than not, most facts turn out to be irrelevant or wrong, it’s not worthy of inclusion in a headline or lede. And including the suspect’s treatment for depression and anxiety, but not his treatment for, say, digestive upset or his need for corrective lenses, serves only to reinforce the stigma of mental illness.

And by giving high prominence to the soldier’s being evaluated (not even diagnosed) for PTSD, it’s a huge disservice to the staggering numbers of American men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD. The link, by the way, between PTSD and violence is at best shaky, and anyone who tells you a person being treated for depression and anxiety is prone to violence or mass shootings is an idiot. Simple as that.

And yet, the potentially stigma-reinforcing and possibly irrelevant correlation between the shooting and the suspect’s treatment for mental illness and perhaps PTSD wormed its way into cable news coverage and stories written about the killings at Fort Hood:

  • A soldier suffering from mental health issues killed three people and wounded 16 others at the Fort Hood U.S. Army base in central Texas on Wednesday before turning a gun on himself and committing suicide, the base’s commander said. (Reuters)
  • A soldier being treated for mental health issues opened fire Wednesday at Fort Hood, killing three people and wounding 16 before fatally shooting himself at the same military base where 13 people died in a 2009 attack, authorities said. The gunman was being evaluated for PTSD, but a diagnosis had not been confirmed, said Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the senior officer on the base. (Dallas Morning News)
  • A soldier being treated for mental health issues opened fire Wednesday with a semiautomatic weapon at Fort Hood, killing three people and wounding several others before taking his own life as a military policewoman confronted him, officials said. (CBS News)
  • While the gunman’s motive is still unclear in Wednesday’s deadly incident at the Texas Army base, military officials say he had “mental-health issues.”(Daily Beast)
  • A soldier who was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder opened fire at Fort Hood on Wednesday, killing three people and wounding 16 before killing himself, the authorities said. The shooting set off a huge police response and shut down the sprawling Army base, the same facility where a deadly rampage by an officer resulted in 13 deaths in 2009. (The New York Times)

Yes, the last link is to the venerable New York Times, prompting Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, to tweet: “Correlation does not imply causation. The @NYTimes should know that. And everyone else should take note.”

These kinds of subtle connections, floated out in headlines, ledes and in repeated questions to experts in endless cable news coverage, result in reinforcement of stigma, and a lost opportunity to educate viewers and readers on what mental illness and PTSD really are.

At a recent forum at a forum on mental illness and violence held in Washington last month by the Institute of Medicine, doctors and researchers warned about the ways incidents of mass shooting magnify misunderstanding about mental illness.

“The recent wave of mass shootings, often attributed to individuals with mental illness, should be placed in perspective, said Thomas Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “Most people with mental illness are not violent, and most acts of violence are not committed by people with mental illness,” said Insel in his keynote address.

“People with untreated psychotic illness are at increased risk of irrational behavior, including violence, especially directed at family and friends. This usually happens at the onset of illness and before diagnosis or treatment. However, once treatment starts, these people have no higher risk of violence than the general population and are more often victims of crime.”

So yes, perhaps the shooter at Fort Hood did have PTSD. He may also have had any number of issues in his life that may or may not have led him to buy a gun, bring it to base, and kill. And yet news organizations including the Times thought there was enough reason to put a potential diagnosis of PTSD ahead of the facts of the shooting itself. What does that convey to readers?

Again, consider the alternate lede: “A soldier who attended a local mosque opened fire at Fort Hood on Wednesday.” That would never make the cut at the Times. But like the Daily News, mental illness does slip right into the first words of the first sentence, and it implies cause and effect.

That’s just plain sloppy journalism, and with millions of Americans facing mental health issues through the course of their lifetimes, and a generation of American men and women returning from wars suffering from these treatable illnesses and yet often resisting reaching out for help and ending their lives in suicide, we have a responsibility as journalists to be much more careful.
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Cosmos Peacefully Settles the Score

April 2, 2014 by  
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There has always been rancor between science and religion. One questions everything, even the very existence of God, and the other seeks divine insights from ancient theology. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey comes at a time when America is divided over the very nature of knowledge and how knowledge should influence policy making.

The argument is over proof. How do we know what we know? Cosmos intends to answer that question for millions of Americans.

Cosmos presents science as a cohesive body of verifiable knowledge. It isn’t a pop-science show of lights, despite the striking visual effects. Dr. Tyson is drawing before our very eyes the map that is science, demonstrating that no scientific theory exists in a vacuum. Science is carefully plotted from concept to concept, a web of interconnected ideas that reinforce each other and point us in the direction of truth.

Cosmos does this episodically, each episode building on the one before. In just four episodes Dr. Tyson has taken us from the Dark Ages to Einstein and already laid the theoretical framework to follow the tack of proof wherever it leads. Last week was general relativity. The week before that was classical physics and Isaac Newton. Still before was evolution, and it all began with the ground rules in the first episode:

This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adherent to a simple set of rules: Test ideas by experiments and observations; build on those ideas that pass the test; reject the ones that fail; follow the evidence wherever it leads; and question everything. Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours.

Following the map, we can look down that road to the future as well as look back to see where we’ve been and understand how it is that we know what we know. General relativity is built on theories established by Isaac Newton and others. Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation are built on the observations and calculations of curious people like Copernicus. And quantum mechanics is built on the calculus that Newton invented.

It is all interconnected. General relativity proves the age of the observable universe, which proves that evolution has plenty of time to work, confirming our observations in the fossil record. Our evolution has gifted us with the means to recognize these things, enabling us to create models that explain the universe

Physics, chemistry, biology, astrophysics, cosmology, quantum mechanics, and general relativity are all based on the theories of each other. Chemistry is explained by physics and quantum mechanics, which also explains biology and parts of astrophysics, primarily governed by general relativity, which also governs chemistry and therefore biology, and ultimately our very evolution. One points to all the others.

To deny one is to deny them all. To challenge the age of the Earth is to challenge the speed of light.

Yet Tyson does not hide the fact that some of the greatest thinkers of our species were and are people of faith who, awestruck by the unfathomable scale of the universe, found God not in a book but in the paradoxically complex simplicity of creation and weren’t afraid to question everything, including their own spirituality.

The message of Cosmos to people of faith is that divinity is a human exercise; that what makes us special isn’t a book; that despite our ultimate insignificance, we can still understand the nature of the universe and our place in it; and that it is not a betrayal of faith to ask questions.
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Turkey Took a Big Time Selfie

April 1, 2014 by  
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Nowadays, people are racing to take selfies and share them on social networks to be part of this phenomenon. On social media, we have seen very different kinds of selfies. It’s hard to determine how artistic a selfie can be, but apparently these casual photos are getting more and more popular every day.

Honestly, in the past, selfies gave me a feeling of loneliness. I thought that the person taking the selfie was enjoying the moment so much, but apparently no one was around to share her joy. Thus she had to take her photo by herself to share it with her loved ones. So in my understanding, the selfie was a cover for misery.

However, now we see group selfies as well. Selfie-mania becamse critical when 86th Academy Awards host Ellen DeGeneres uploaded a photo of 12 celebrities in a selfie. By the end of the ceremony that selfie had been retweeted over 2 million times. Now taking group selfies has become a fashion and everybody is taking a part.

In the 21st century, with the rise of individualism, people have become ignorant, insensitive and careless to each other, and instead of looking deep inside of themselves they are more interested and occupied in watching others. Instead of listening deeply to their hearts, people are more involved in other’s personal lives.

Therefore, taking selfies is important. When you turn your camera onto yourself instead of others, you can see your true self clearly. Also, the selfie cannot hide the real you as much as a regular camera shot would, because your arm’s length determines the distance between you and the camera and you don’t have the luxury of playing around to get the best shot, as you would be able to do with a camera on a tripod and a photographer. As my nine-year-old says, when you take a selfie, you “get what you get and never get upset.”

Turkey has been posing for many photos and taking plenty of selfies since last May, with the beginning of the Gezi demonstrations. The country’s vivid, dramatic and impressive photos have been rocking social media. These days, while we as a society have been taking and sharing one selfie after another, we have realized many things weren’t the way we thought they were in Turkey. Especially since Dec. 17, when the corruption news broke, Turkey has looked very different in those selfies.

Since then, many of us have been thinking that Turkey’s problematic democracy has transformed into an autocracy and that Turkey is confidently on its way to becoming a member of the “freedom league” — with such players as China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and North Korea, where freedom of speech and human rights are secondary issues.

Also, indeed, we presumed that over the last decade Turkey progressed in its political and economic transformation. When the Arab uprisings exploded in 2011, Turkey gained more importance as a model for others in the region with its trade, diplomatic outreach and cultural exports following its achievement of a working democracy in a Muslim majority state; yet in the last six months Turkey has lost its credibility in the international area. Beneath the surface, there is deep concern about the direction the country is heading.

Since the Gezi demonstrations and especially after Dec. 17, when the corruption news exploded onto the scene, our morals have been wounded in several ways in Turkey. People have lost their trust. Everybody is questioning everything. We lost our collective wisdom as a society.

Polarization, othering and intolerance are major problems now, and we have to fight against them to be able to be whole. It will take some time to ease all this pain and heal all these wounds. Our selfies have showed us once again that each individual is important. So, respecting differences is a must for harmony in society. In a strong democracy, people expect to learn from each other.

On March 30, Turkey took another selfie: the selfie of the last 12 years! The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has won Sunday’s local elections in Turkey and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) filed an appeal alleging vote rigging. For Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s embattled prime minister, a win in Sunday’s local elections will be a Pyrrhic victory. While his Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., will likely retain a majority of municipalities, Turkey as a whole, particularly as an international player, has lost. Erdogan victory puts icy Turkey-EU relations in deep freeze. EU calls on Turkey to step up reforms after Erdogan claims victory in local elections. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory for his party in local elections, and vowed that his enemies would “pay the price”.

Everybody is competing to take the best selfie nowadays. A selfie is a kind of self-portrait photograph. The word “selfie” had become ordinary enough to take a place in the Oxford Dictionaries Online in 2013. Then in the same year, Oxford Dictionaries Online declared the word “selfie” its Word of the Year. The result of the local elections will be a clearer soon. This selfie will be showing what has changed since the Gezi protests in Turkey. We have to wait and see what the consequences will be and what will come next!

For more Arzu Kaya-Uranli, click here.
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